Spotlight_Sep2010.jpgNegotiate a lower price on a contract. Add $10 000 to the bottom-line.

Get Procurement represented on the board. Add $-millions to the bottom-line.

Raise the profile of your profession, so that everyone can now see your lack of ethics. Priceless.

While Procurement strives to raise its profile in the business world, toiling everyday to prove to the boards of countless organisations that it has the power to make or break bottom-lines, it must not forget that a spotlight shows your shortcomings just as well as your skills.

Current media coverage of South African public Procurement paints an unethical picture, which must change if the profession is not to destroy the good work it has already done towards seating itself on the board.

According to NextLevelPurchasing.com keeping Procurement ethical begins with five components:

1. An ethics policy

An ethics dispute should never be the result of a difference of opinion between the Procurement department and an employee.

Every organisation must have a written policy making it clear what top management considers ethical and what it considers unethical. If you do not have an ethics policy an ethics dispute will quickly demonstrate that you need one.

2. Ethics training

The great part about having an ethics policy is that the rules are tangible and indisputable. The unfortunate part is that no one reads ethics policies.

Supplement an ethics policy with Procurement ethics training for anyone who is involved with the purchase of commodities and/or who meets with suppliers.

3. An ethics ombudsman

Some organisations appoint an ethics ombudsman – a person with whom an employee can confidentially communicate any real or perceived ethical violations.

It may be difficult to confront internal customers who are more politically powerful; therefore, having an ethics ombudsman can make Procurement employees more comfortable in revealing behaviours of questionable ethics.

4. A process with checks and balances

Every significant Procurement should require managerial review to confirm that all guidelines were followed and that no ethical violations have occurred or will occur.

5. Audits

Audits should be performed periodically to verify that all Procurement activities were conducted ethically and in accordance with procedures. Audits also serve as a deterrent against future unethical behaviour.